Least Sandpipers Foraging on the Mudflats at Arcata Marsh

by Larry Jordan on November 8, 2011

Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) photos by Larry Jordan

The three common small sandpipers resident in North America are collectively called “peeps.”  The Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) is the smallest of the peeps measuring a mere 6 inches.

To see a flock of these small shorebirds flying and turning in unison, changing from dark to light and back again, is truly a treat to behold.

It’s also fun to watch them forage on the mudflats as I did a few weeks ago at the Arcata Marsh.

Breeding mainly in subarctic tundra and far northern boreal forest over much of North America, the Least Sandpiper prefers coastal wetlands or subalpine sedge meadows for nesting. They migrate on a broad front across North America, with eastern populations likely undertaking nonstop transoceanic migrations of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers1. Map courtesy of Birds of North America Online.

These peeps are in non-breeding plumage which always makes them more difficult to identify. Click on photos for full sized images.

A simple way to distinguish the Least Sandpiper from other peeps is their legs. Besides being slightly smaller, the Least Sandpiper is browner looking and has yellowish or greenish legs whereas the other peeps have blackish legs.

I caught this little one actually standing still for a brief moment.

This is most likely a juvenile Least Sandpiper. Notice that it is more colorful than some of the others, with extensive rufous on its shoulders and upperparts.

If you get a chance to see this little peep, take the time to watch them for awhile.  They are bundles of energy.

You probably want to take the time right now to get on over to World Bird Wednesday and see all the other beautiful birds from all over the world.

And while you’re here, if you use Google Friend Connect, please consider joining my website via the widget in the right hand column of my blog and I will join yours in return.  Thanks for the visit!

References: 1Birds of North America Online

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

TexWisGirl November 8, 2011 at 8:45 am

love the 2nd to last shot. cute little birds.


Boom & Gary November 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

Good close ups!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.


Andrew November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am

Lovely sandpipers to see Larry and thanks for sharing the video clip…


Tracey Nanstad November 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

Amazing shots and beautiful little birds!


holdingmoments November 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Great shots Larry.
Love the video clip.


heyBJK November 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Gorgeous photos! And the scenery is wonderful!


springman November 8, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Great video clip Larry, it really helps to understand the energetic nature of these kinetic birds. Still photography has a tough time with that. Thanks for the ride brother, you do the sandpiper great justice!


Debbie Miller @HooootOwl November 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Wonderful images, post and clip. To see so many at one time I’m sure was incredible.


Mick November 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Great photos of the smallest of all the sandpipers.


Larry November 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm

@Theresa that is probably my favorite shot of the group too 😉

@Gary thanks!

@Andrew you are very welcome. I’m really enjoying my new video camera. I like sharing the behavior of the birds in video

@Tracey thank you. It was fun photographing them

@Keith thanks a bunch!

@Brian I’m glad you liked the scenery too

@Dave thanks! I love doing the video too!

@Debbie it’s so cool to see the flocks of shorebirds flying here and there. Enchanting really

@Mick thank you


Stewart M - Australia November 9, 2011 at 1:30 am

Hi there – we get heaps of Red Necked Stints down here for our summer – very similar looking bird.

Now, if my gulls were trained I would have been able to get the “both looking right shot” – and believe me I tried!



Arija November 9, 2011 at 3:54 am

Superb post Larry, I love those cute little fellow rushing around, great video. Great shot of the little guy holding still to have his reflection show for you.
Most obliging.


CameraCruise November 9, 2011 at 4:04 am

Great shots of the beautiful birds!
Love the last 2 photos and video clip!


Hilke Breder November 9, 2011 at 7:08 am

Love the video and the photos. Such eager busy little birds! Appreciate the info on their migration. Thanks, Larry.


Pat Ulrich November 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

Great captures of the least peeps! They are one of my favorites to photograph!


Pat November 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Lovely shots! Great to see these birds in action on video.


nature rambles November 10, 2011 at 2:07 am

Fascinating post Larry. To see and photograph so many birds together must quite an experience. Very pretty birds!


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